Emmerdale: Laurel and Jai’s storyline | DSA statements

27 November

We first heard about Emmerdale’s upcoming storyline when it was released in the press three weeks ago. We had no involvement in the development of the storyline but we have since spoken to the producer of Emmerdale, Laura Shaw, several times. We have relayed our concerns about the storyline, particularly for the many people who have Down’s syndrome who watch the soap and how they might be affected by it. We have also spoken about what parents like Laurel and Jai might be experiencing.

We understand from calls to our own helpline that their story is one which is reflected in real life, and we want to make sure people who may be going through the same, know that there is support if they want to know more about Down’s syndrome.

Our confidential helpline is the only one out there listening to families who have had a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome, like Laurel and Jai. Calls to the helpline have increased recently.

Women and their partners need to have access to a confidential helpline service to answer their questions. Our staff are trained in how to listen and give information about all matters related to Down’s syndrome.

Of course, not all people will call us, and some may have already made their decision, but it is important that those that want to know more feel that there is somewhere to go. Families might not call us if they felt we would try to persuade them to follow a particular path.

We have asked Emmerdale for viewers to be signposted to us following the screening of any episodes on this storyline.

We hope that Emmerdale will handle this storyline as sensitively as they have assured us they will. Although we certainly do not welcome it and were not involved in its development, we understand that their team have spoken to families who have lived experience of Down’s syndrome during their research.

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23 November

The Down’s Syndrome Association has had no involvement in the development of the Emmerdale story line and we have told the team at Emmerdale of our concerns, particularly for the many people who have Down’s syndrome who watch the soap and how they might be affected by it. We asked Emmerdale for viewers to be signposted to us following the screening of any episodes on this storyline. We have been assured that this will happen.

Calls to our confidential Helpline from expectant parents following pre-natal testing have increased recently. We want to make sure that parents get accurate information and do not feel like they are being judged. Families might not call us if they felt we would try to persuade them to follow a particular path. Families come back to us after their baby has been born and we continue to be there for them as their child grows up.

We certainly do not welcome the upcoming storyline and have already started to support people who have Down’s syndrome and their families who are worried and will continue to do so while the story runs.

11 November

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) would not want to see a world without people who have Down’s syndrome. People who have Down’s syndrome make an enormous contribution to their families, local communities and society in general in all sorts of different ways. All expectant parents must be provided with accurate and up to date information. Although we weren’t consulted about this particular script, we hope to see these recommendations included in the Emmerdale story as it progresses.

The DSA can provide balanced and up to date information about Down’s syndrome for expectant parents and we would encourage anyone in this situation to contact our confidential helpline to talk with our trained staff for non-directive information and support.

We know that this very sensitive story and the publicity surrounding it will cause upset to some viewers who have Down’s syndrome. We are here to support them, as well as their families and friends.